Also Ran

Lola reminds Tanmoy Goswami of another common-man runner, who scampered through the business of life as if it were a box of chocolates.

The first time I sat down to watch Run Lola Run, I kept expecting to see Tom Hanks.

The name of the film had floated into my consciousness years back, most probably during one of those depraved post-dinner soirees in the college hostel when names like ‘Lola’ made unique sense. Just the title—invoking images of a running Lola customised to suit our individual fantasies—made us look for the CD in the neighbourhood video store. Unsurprisingly, they didn’t have it, although we did return with a few close matches featuring Bo Derek and Kimi Katkar.  I say ‘unsurprisingly’ because you simply did not get German movies in video rental stores ten years back, not even if they had names like that.

After I left college—and the hostel—my fantasies became more accessible. For starters, I now had my own laptop with my own superfast broadband. Suddenly, the world seemed to be exploding with all manners and forms of running women. Lola stayed on as a hazy, fond adolescent memory, like an obscene joke only your closest comrades are privy to, but she was still faceless.

It was at this time that films began to claim all my nights. After five years of reading English Literature, books had started to repel me, and cinema cashed in on this vacuum. Aided by IMDB, I drew up a list of 250 must-watch films, one per night, hoping to end what seemed like a lifetime’s cinematic starvation. A week after starting this regime, I encountered Forrest Gump for the first time.  He had been running for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days and 16 hours.

Forrest Gump won hands, or rather, feet down when it came to my generation’s runner heroes. Remember that running scenes in Bollywood films mostly involved a little street-hardened boy running away from the bad guys and ending up as a full-grown Amitabh Bachhan by the end of the credit sequence. Compared to this high-voltage saxophone-and-banjo routine, Forrest Gump’s sprint looked almost mundane—but he made you want to run with him, if only so you could also join him when he said “Now you wouldn’t believe me if I told you, but I could run like the wind blows.

I owe not a little to Forrest Gump for helping me rush through those first 250 films in a little over three months. Soon, I was looking for more like him. Someone told me Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams aboard Chariots of Fire could come close, but it turned out they were too grandiose for me to relate to them. Then suddenly, serendipity struck through the unlikely route of the Bengaluru Goethe Institute, and Lola came running back into my life. She had only 20 minutes to reach the finish line.

That gap of 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, 15 hours and 40 minutes aside, there isn’t much separating Lola from Forrest Gump. Comparing the cinematic merit of the two films they inhabit would be as ridiculous as comparing Carl Lewis with PT Usha, because they ran—and won—very different races. One ran in the midst of the Vietnam War, the other merely across a nondescript German town. One ran to defy bullies and win rugby games among other reasons, the other with the singular aim of saving a life. But they both ran because that’s all they could do and not to establish any heroic agenda. If anything, Lola could do with a meeting with Forrest Gump. He would tell her how she must put her triumph aside and learn to run “for no particular reason”, and maybe years later she would be found telling her friends “…[f]rom that day on, if I was ever going somewhere, I was running!

Published in the UTV World Movies Magazine, January 2010 issue, as a companion piece to the cover story on Run Lola Run.

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